Imperiling workers and the public, the National Labor Relations Board has dismissed cases against employers charged with firing COVID-19 whistleblowers and refusing to bargain over safety and health issues.
The decisions, laid out in five memos to NLRB regional directors, are among the most recent assaults on workers' rights and safety by the Republican-controlled board and its fierce union-busting general counsel, Peter Robb.
There's “only one outcome in their decision making," former NLRB chairwoman Wilma Liebman told Bloomberg Law. "All decisions favor employers, a result inconceivable under a statute designed to protect workers."
Despite the virus' rapid spread, the NLRB is letting employers drag their feet. It dismissed charges the Teamsters brought against a concrete company, which refused to reopen bargaining to discuss paid sick leave and hazard pay. The memo said management is only obligated to do so 60 days after a formal request from the union.
At least two of the cases involved workers who were fired after speaking up about dangerous conditions, including a nurse at a New York nursing home where employees were required to share what are intended to be sanitary isolation gowns.
"The board has decided that an individual speaking out about a company's COVID safety procedure is not protected speech," Bloomberg Law stated.
The board also dropped a case against a Texas drywall company that fired a worker who raised concerns about a lack of hand-washing supplies. The NLRB accepted it as protected speech but rejected the claim of retaliation.
The facts of each case may differ, but the message is clear, International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "Not even the gravity of a deadly pandemic is slowing down the NLRB's attacks on our fundamental rights as workers, one of which is returning home safe and well every day.
"Let me be blunt: The only way that changes is by electing a pro-worker, pro-union president who appoints board members who will stand up for us," he said. "We know Joe Biden will do that because he's had our backs for 50 years."
The five-seat NLRB is controlled by the party in power in the White House. Until recently, the board was composed solely of three Republicans who raced to issue unanimous 3-0 rulings against workers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to fill either of the two vacant seats belonging to Democrats. Finally, in late July, he allowed the reconfirmation of Lauren McFerran, whose previous five-year term ended last December. Once again, she is the NLRB's lone worker-friendly voice.
The current board majority is “apparently taking advantage of the pandemic to excuse employers from obligations they would otherwise have under the statute," Liebman said in the Bloomberg article.
In the process, she said, they are easing or discarding "norms that provide some measure of integrity to agency procedure."
Liebman, who served on the board from 1997 to 2011 and was appointed chairwoman by President Obama in 2009, said the presidential election is also a factor, spurring the board to “rush to check off all the items on management law firms’ wish lists.”
The pace picked up sharply about a year ago, including rulings that allow employers to kick organizers out of public spaces and forbid union apparel at work; shield corporations when franchises mistreat employees; ban certain informational pickets; and much more, including a June decision that expands the right of employers to search workers' cars and other belongings on company property.
In “matters of substance, procedure and integrity, they are continuing in a direction long in the making, but seemingly at an accelerating pace," Liebman said.
The officers of the IBEW are deeply saddened to announce the death of Fourth District International Vice President Brian Malloy, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer late last year. He was 60 years old.
|Malloy was a longtime desk representative for International Secretary-Treasurer Cooper when Cooper was Fourth District IVP. They're pictured here together at the 2016 International Convention in St. Louis.
“The IBEW has lost a great leader far too soon,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “Brian loved this union and he worked so hard to help it live up to every bit of its potential. He knew that our strength was in our members, and he showed his commitment to them in everything he did at every stage of his career. He’ll be dearly missed.”
“Brother Malloy leaves a legacy filled with accomplishment and faithful stewardship at the local, district and international levels of the IBEW,” said International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper, who Malloy replaced as Fourth District IVP in 2017. “More importantly, Brian was a man who loved his family and stood by his friends, and I’m so happy to have counted myself among them. He was a great leader a trusted friend, and I truly appreciate the time that I had with him and his friendship – I will never forget him.”
Brother Malloy grew up in Mount Savage, Md., a tiny blue-collar community in an Appalachian valley near the Pennsylvania border. As a senior in high school, he enrolled in a career education course and spent time on a hospital job site shadowing members of Cumberland, Md., Local 307. He applied to the apprenticeship shortly after graduating, and on his second try, he was accepted. In 1979, he was initiated into Local 307, where he went on to serve as president, assistant business manager and from 1991-2001 as business manager.
In 2001, he was appointed an international representative in the Fourth District, which covers Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. There, he served under three international vice presidents, always learning, always listening. “I like to listen a lot,” he said when he was appointed International Vice President. “I’m more of a listener than a talker.”
So, when he was asked to take the reins of the district by Stephenson in 2017, he was well-prepared. As International Vice President, he made organizing his calling card, setting ambitious goals and working hard to grow the union. He also guided contract negotiations for more than 1,400 new members at Baltimore Gas & Electric and oversaw major state legislative victories for working families in Ohio and Virginia.
|Malloy left his very first Fourth District Progress Meeting as vice president to be present for the birth of his grandson, Carson. Several years later, he appeared on stage at the same meeting with Malloy, International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and International Secretary-Treasurer Kennth W. Cooper.
“Brian and I came on as IVPs within a month of one another,” said Third District International Vice President Mike Welsh. “With neighboring districts, we had a lot in common – including a connection to Cumberland where my parents grew up – and we learned on the job together and through regular conversations and occasional lunches halfway between our homes. He was just a great asset to the IBEW. In meetings, we’d always sit side-by-side, and he was always so thoughtful and really took the time to learn and understand all of the issues up for discussion.
“You might disagree with him, but he was as honest and straightforward a person as you’ve ever come across, and he always showed he wanted to work with you to find the best solution for the IBEW and its members,” Welsh said. “He’ll be missed.”
But despite his responsibilities at the highest levels of the IBEW, Brother Malloy never lost a special connection with his home local.
Malloy appointed current Local 307 Business Manager Rodney Rice to his first union office, the apprenticeship committee, in 1998 and later made him a steward. Rice recalls near daily phone calls after becoming business manager when the two would talk sometimes for Malloy’s entire hour-and-20-minute commute for his first several years on the job. “I didn’t always want to hear what he had to say, but Brian was always clear, always fair and a straight shooter. I valued his advice so much. This is a huge loss for Local 307 and for the Fourth District.”
What really sticks out for Rice was Malloy’s connection to the local’s membership. “For nearly 20 years after he left for the district office, Brian remembered everything about our members, who their families were, what was important to them. Until he got sick, he’d show up to funerals and memorial services. He’d see an obituary in the paper and remember whose brother or uncle it was and send it to me. He cared about people, and it showed,” Rice said.
And they cared about him back, said Local 307 President, Malloy’s cousin and lifelong friend, George Koontz. “He meant so much to me, but also to the members of this local. Everyone loved him, especially the retirees, and they asked about him all the time. They all wanted to know how he was doing because he’d spent so many years caring about them. He took his job very seriously, and it was because he cared so much about each and every one of them.”
Former Executive Assistant to the International Secretary-Treasurer Jim Combs was Local 307’s business manager in the mid-1980s when he hired Malloy to be his assistant on the recommendation of a friend. “Brian came in at a time when I really needed him, and he was great – talented, level-headed, knew when to keep quiet and listen and when to speak up. Hiring him was one of the best choices I made in my entire career.”
Fourth District International Representative Gary Griffin replaced Malloy as desk representative on the district staff in 2017, where they worked closely for the last three years. But the two had been close friends for more than 25.
|Grandson Carson came to the Fourth District office for a weekly lunch when Malloy was not traveling. "Poppy was the role he enjoyed the most," said daughter Breana.
“Brian and I met many years ago when I went to work as a traveler while he was business manager of Local 307,” Griffin said. “We became friends there in Cumberland, but our friendship really developed when he came on the district staff as the service rep for [Baltimore] Local 24. We became great friends while I was a business agent there.
“He had such a great sense of humor – very dry. He put people at ease, but he was one of the smartest IBEW guys I ever met. He absorbed everything like a sponge, but he never flaunted it or made anyone feel inferior to him.” And he had a moral compass that never faltered, Griffin said. “He was just such a fair, fair guy. Brian always managed to do the right thing.”
International Representative Jon Rosenberger first met Malloy in 1989 during his interview to join Local 307. The two hit it off almost immediately and became close friends – a friendship that would last three decades. Rosenberger first ran for union office around the same time Malloy became business manager, and later went on to join the staff as an organizer.
“Brian was one of the kindest, most decent people I’ve ever met,” he said. “He was a perfect role model; the kind you wanted your kids to pattern themselves after.” In fact, he said, “I watched him for years from up close, learning how to treat people and how to build a career in the IBEW by working hard on behalf of the membership and always telling it like it was. He could fit in as easily on a job site as in a board room, and he always treated everyone like they were important.
“He represented members, whether it was as business manager or international vice president, and he took that very seriously. I don’t believe you could have a better advocate as a union member than Brian Malloy.”
His daughter, International Representative Breana Malloy, says her father would want his illness to serve as his final act of service after a career dedicated to members of the IBEW. “My dad never had a cough; he was never sick, never short of breath. He went to the doctor regularly and never had any of the classic symptoms of lung cancer,” she said. “When he was diagnosed in December, it was because he had a backache.” The cancer had spread undetected to his spine. He’d been a smoker but quit a decade ago.
“The best-case scenario for lung cancer is to catch it early,” she said. “A new recommendation is that anyone over 55 with a history of ‘heavy smoking’ should have a low-dose CT scan to check for cancer as part of their regular health check-ups. A lot of doctors don’t know about this yet, but he’d want to make sure his IBEW sisters and brothers knew to ask for themselves and get screened before cancer spreads.”
Brother Malloy is survived by siblings Rae Ann and Patrick, niece Evin, his loving wife Susie, Breana and her husband Brett, and his pride and joy, grandson Carson, whom he introduced to Fourth District members at every opportunity.
Griffin recalled Malloy’s first progress meeting as vice president when he got word that Breana was in labor and raced to be there for the birth of his grandson. “Family came first for Brian, and that moment showed it. But the members of the IBEW were a very close second, and we were all lucky to have him.”
“My dad was the hardest-working person I know; he often put everyone else and their well-being before his own,” Breana said. “He did everything 100%, which made him the best son, husband, dad, father-in-law and poppy.”
The officers, staff and entire membership of the IBEW extend our deepest condolences to the Malloy family and thank them for sharing Brother Malloy with us for the last 41 years.